Change & Cancelation Fees for Award Tickets

Tracy Stewart, August 15, 2012
Fares from Washington DC:

    So you've booked a trip using your hard-earned frequent flyer points, and now, for whatever reason, need to cancel or make a change to your ticket. How hard can it be, right? Well, that all depends on which carrier you've been loyal to, of course. But chances are it won't be easy. Airlines have tightened restrictions on changes to award tickets, and some are positively awful about it (cough cough, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, cough cough), even refusing to give back miles for canceled trips. Oof! We put the fine print in chart-form below: 

    Airline
    Cancelation Policy
    Fee
    Other Information
    Elite Benefit Application

    Air Canada

    Changes to award tickets can be made any time up to two hours prior to original flight departure. If within two hours, mileage is forfeited and the ticket cannot be reused at a later date. Cancelations to award tickets can be made any time up to 22 days prior to departure for a refund of the miles. If 21 days or less, the ticket will have a one year validity period in which to use it or miles will be forfeited.

    Any changes or cancelations incur a $90 (Canadian Dollars) fee. If changes to an origin/destination result in a lower amount of miles required, the difference is forfeited. Other airlines credit this back to your account, but not Air Canada. Elite members are not given any fee waivers. Elite members are not given any fee waivers.
    Air France/KLM Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Any changes or cancelations incur a 40 euro fee. Even elite members have to pay this fee. Even elite members have to pay this fee.
    Alaska
    Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Any changes or cancelations incur a $75 fee if made at the airline's website or $100 if made over the phone. MVP Gold members can make changes at any time for free. One change is allowed within 24 hours of booking free of charge for domestic tickets and one change is allowed within 72 hours of booking free of charge for international tickets. If miles are redeemed from an MVP Gold account (even if the actual passenger is not the elite member), the fee waivers are still applicable.
    American Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Changes to an award ticket that have a different origin or destination require a $150 fee (this is waived for Executive Platinum). Changes to departure date within 21 days of original departure date require a $75 fee (this is waived for Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum. American allows tickets to be put on hold for 5 days before confirming it. Afterwards, tickets can be canceled at any time for $150. This is waived for Executive Platinum members. If miles are redeemed from an Executive Platinum account (even if the actual passenger is not the elite member), the fee waivers are still applicable.
    British Airways Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Changes can be made online for $40 or over the phone for $65. This fee is waived for Gold members and infants. Free changes over the phone are permitted within 24 hours of booking. This fee is collected per passenger in the reservation, not just once per reservation. There is no official policy although some agents may waive it for Gold member-booked reservations.
    Delta Award tickets can be modified or canceled anytime until 72 hours before initial departure. Changes can be made for $150 if more than 72 hours from initial departure. Platinum and Diamond Medallions can make free changes anytime, but cannot cancel/change a ticket within 72 hours of departure on outbound segment. This is perhaps the stingiest airline cancelation policy out there, but was recently modified after a lot of pushback from Medallions. Platinum and Diamond Medallions can now make changes anytime once the outbound has been flown but cancelations within 72 hours result in forfeiture of miles no matter what one's elite status. Like all other members, changes are still not permitted within 72 hours of outbound departure for Platinum/Diamond members. If miles are redeemed from Diamond or Platinum Medallion's account (even if the actual passenger is not the Medallion), the fee waivers are still applicable.
    JetBlue Award tickets can be changed or canceled any time before departure. Changes or cancelations both incur a $100 fee. The fee is collected per passenger. N/A
    United Changes made to an award ticket more than 21 days from initial departure are free. For changes made under 21 days, fees range from $25-$150 for changes to origin/destination, date of travel, or cancelation depending upon one's elite status. Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, and Global Services members can change or cancel an award ticket for free at any time. Examples: A general member who cancels a ticket within 21 days of departure must pay a $150 fee. A Premier Gold has to pay $100. A general member changing the origin or destination city within 21 days of departure has to pay a $75 fee. A Premier Gold has to pay $25. These fees apply per passenger so if there are four people in a booking, the fee is quadrupled. If miles are redeemed from a Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, or Global Services member's account (even if the actual passenger is not the elite member), the fee waivers are still applicable.
    US Airways Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Any changes or cancelations incur a $150 fee. Gold, Platinum, and Chairman's Preferred members can make changes at any time for free. US Airways allows tickets to be put on hold for 3 days before completing the booking, but must be done on the phone (and a fee for phone reservations often applies). If miles are redeemed from a Chairman's Preferred member's account (even if the actual passenger is not the elite member), the fee waivers are still applicable.
    Virgin America Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. Any changes or cancelations incur a $100 fee. Gold members receive free changes or cancelations. Fee waivers apply to Gold members only.
    Virgin Atlantic Changes or cancelations to award tickets can be made at any time. However, cancelations do not result in the full refund of miles used for the ticket. Any changes or cancelations incur a $50. If tickets are canceled more than 7 days of departure, only 75% of the miles used will be refunded. If canceled within 7 days of departure, all miles will be forfeited but no fee will be charged. Virgin Atlantic's stingy policy punishes members for canceling tickets at any time with the forfeiture of some or all miles used. Gold card holders are sometimes offered a fee waiver, but miles are still forfeited. Fee waivers are not an established benefit, but are sometimes offered.
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